2014 Year in Review on the Civic Federation Blog

December 30, 2014

The following posts were among the most highly read on the Civic Federation blog in 2014 and represent some of the most closely followed local government issues this year:

Illinois General Assembly Passes Pension Reforms for Chicago
April 16, 2014

This blog discussed Senate Bill 1922, which was approved by the Illinois House and Senate on April 8, 2014. The bill contained benefit reforms and funding increases intended to stabilize the financial condition of the City of Chicago’s Municipal and Laborers’ Pension Funds. An earlier version of the bill referenced an increased property tax levy to fund the City’s increased employer contributions. This language was revised in the final bill, leaving the Chicago City Council to decide how the increased contributions will be made. The Municipal and Laborers’ funds, which represent more than half of all city employees, were projected to be insolvent within the next decade without reforms.

Update: The Civic Federation supported this legislation and urged Governor Quinn to sign the bill in a June 5 op-ed for the Chicago Tribune. Governor Quinn signed the legislation on June 9. On July 30, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance to increase the emergency communications (911) surcharge paid by subscribers of telecommunication services within the City of Chicago. This Civic Federation blog describes how the 911 surcharge is expected to free up additional funding for the City’s Municipal and Laborers’ Pension Funds. Lawsuits against the new law were filed in Cook County Circuit Court by members of the Municipal Pension Fund on December 16, 2014 and by members of the Laborers’ Pension Fund on December 29, 2014.

Cook County Issues Preliminary Budget Forecast for FY2015
July 3, 2014

This blog outlined the preliminary FY2015 budget forecast and estimated FY2014 year-end results issued by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on June 26, 2014. The preliminary FY2015 forecast reflected a deficit of $168.9 million, well below the preliminary gap of $487.0 million in FY2011, the first year of the Preckwinkle administration. The County also predicted an FY2014 year-end shortfall of $85.9 million, largely due to CountyCare spending outpacing revenues.

Update: The Civic Federation issued its full analysis of President Preckwinkle’s FY2015 proposed Cook County budget on November 13, 2014. The preliminary shortfall was closed with a combination of revenue increases, expenditure reductions and management efficiencies. The Civic Federation praised the work of President Preckwinkle and her administration to reform County operations. The full analysis also warned of continued uncertainty surrounding two areas that are central to the County’s fiscal well-being: CountyCare and proposed County pension reforms.

Higher Tax Rates in Effect for Chicago Tobacco Consumers
January 22, 2014

This blog described recent tobacco tax increases by Cook County, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. These changes increased the composite cigarette tax for Chicago consumers from $5.67 per pack of cigarettes before March 1, 2013 to $7.17 as of January 10, 2014, the largest per-pack tax rate in the country. New York City’s second-highest composite cigarette tax rate is $6.86 per pack.  

Update: On February 3, 2014, the Civic Federation released its annual report on Selected Consumer Taxes in the City of Chicago. The brief provides a compilation of selected consumer taxes, including the sales tax, gas tax, amusement tax, lease tax and parking tax, in place in the City of Chicago as of January 10, 2014. The Civic Federation will release an update to this report in early 2015.

How to Calculate an Effective Tax Rate
October 15, 2014

This blog responded to many inquiries the Civic Federation received after the release of our 2012 Effective Tax Rates report about how to calculate the rates for municipalities outside the study. The post goes through the steps to calculate an effective tax rate for tax year 2012 (taxes payable in 2013) and provides links taxpayers can follow to gather the data they need to estimate effective rates in their own communities.

Update: The Civic Federation’s work on property taxes this year also included an estimate of the total market value of real property in Cook County from 2003-2012. This annual report also shows how property value is spread among the City of Chicago, the northern and the southern suburbs.  

How Well Do Chicago Area Local Government Capital Improvement Plans Follow Best Practices?
January 15, 2014

This blog analyzed the capital improvement plans (CIPs) of six major Chicago area governments and described how well each plan conforms to best practice guidelines. All six of the local governments produced a formal CIP, updated it annually, made it available in the budget or a separate stand-alone CIP and made it accessible on their website. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) had the best record, adhering to 12 of the 14 best practices. The City of Chicago followed the fewest number of best practices, implementing just six of the fourteen indicators.

Update: The Civic Federation annually reviews the capital improvement plans of eight local governments in the Chicago region as part of our annual budget analyses. You can access in-depth analyses for the governments mentioned in this blog post at the following links: City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Chicago Transit Authority, Cook County Forest Preserve District, Cook County and MWRD. Information on the capital improvement plan is at the very end of each report.

Continue to follow the Civic Federation and IIFS blogs in 2015 for ongoing analysis of fiscal developments across Illinois. You can subscribe to both blogs via RSS feeds compatible for Microsoft Outlook, Gmail and most web browsers.

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